Fifth UfM Trade and Investment Forum

Trade provides economic opportunities, but can this be translated into decent jobs for all?

The ILO’s Director of the Employment Policy, Job Creation and Livelihoods Department, Sangheon Lee, advocates for stronger alignment of trade, investment and employment policies for translating economic opportunities into decent employment realities during the 5th UfM Trade and Investment Forum.

Press release | 04 December 2023
Brussels (ILO News)– The role of labour market policies and programmes to address the mismatch between labour demand and supply was the central question guiding the panel discussion on “Bridging the Skills Gap”, which was part of the 5th Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Trade and Investment Forum- Jobs through Trade and Investment: Boosting employment in the Southern Mediterranean held in Brussels on 4 December. The panel took stock of measures taken as well as further steps needed to better match competencies with real-life demands.

“Trade provides economic opportunities. But we have failed to translate these opportunities into decent jobs for all; including for women and youth”, stated Mr Sangheon Lee, Director of the ILO Employment Policy, Job Creation and Livelihoods Department in his intervention. Oftentimes, there is no strategic focus on the skills which are needed to realise the employment opportunities provided by trade. It requires different stakeholders– such as ministries for labour, trade, investment, social partners and specialised agencies– to meet, to identify priority sectors, and to formulate targeted action plans to make economic opportunities an employment reality.

This is where the EU-funded Mainstreaming Employment into Trade and Investment (METI) project comes into the picture. METI aims to better enable policymakers in the Southern Mediterranean region to incorporate an employment perspective into trade and investment policies. It supports the design and implementation of investment strategies that optimize the quantity and quality of employment creation in the region. METI’s analytical approach is based on the ILO’s sectoral skills anticipation programme known as Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification (STED), which combines strategic analysis with stakeholder dialogue. The programme helps to align skills development with policies on trade, economic diversification and industrial development, and support systems change and capacity building in skills anticipation and skills development systems.

This year’s edition of the UfM forum attracted some 100 participants, including speakers such as government ministers, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and stakeholders from different sectors of the Euro-Mediterranean Region who discussed the current regional economic dynamics in a changing global context. In addition, the forum provided an opportunity to debate the regional Team Europe Initiative “Jobs through Trade and Investment in the Southern Neighbourhood”, which is based on three pillars: Sustainable Trade and Investment, Vocational Training and Skills, and Inclusive Entrepreneurship.

The UfM Trade and Investment Forum was co-organized with the German Development Cooperation and made possible by the UfM Regional Platform on Trade and Investment.

(from left to right: Mr. Ghaleb Hijazi, Business Development Centre Jordan, Ms. Emmanuelle Roure, EU Commission DG EMPL, Ms. Lamia Chaffai, Education for Employment EFE Tunisia, Mr. Sangheon Lee, International Labour Organization.)